One of the things I love the most about Japanese festivals is that they are so multi-generational. Everyone gets a chance to join in and there is a place for everyone regardless of age or ability. One of the most exciting festivals in Tokyo is the massive Oeshiki buddhist ceremony at the huge Honmonji in Ikegami, Ota Ward in southern Tokyo. I took these photos of kids joining in, mimicking the adults with their matoi poles and ritual dancing. The kid’s versions are obviously much smaller but they still take it very seriously. Some of the kids are taped up like pro athletes! I can imagine that the constant twisting of the matoi poles can be very hard on fingers, hands and wrists. They also use a very fine talcum powder to get a proper grip on the poles, as the evening progresses the talcum tends to get everywhere! I found when I got home that evening that I too had been covered in a grey mist of powder! Even my camera was coated in it.
One little kid in particular caught my attention, too small to take part in the dancing the kid was still participating fully even from the pram!
I thought the first night of the massive Oeshiki ceremony in Tokyo’s Ikegami district was pretty crowded, seeing as the out of town participants usually don’t show up until the second night. It turns out I was just lucky being in the right place at the right time as I caught most of the local teams as they pulled up for huge group photo on the beginning of the procession route towards the temple on top of the hill. Several teams and their leaders lined up in front of the official photographer and I sneaked right up to him, almost just below his ladder. I think the main guy in the photos were the leader of the local teams but I could be wrong. Still, they were all very photogenic!
More photos from the first of the three nights of the massive buddhist Oeshiki ceremony in memory of saint Nichiren in Tokyo’s Ikegami district. Followers of the Nichiren buddhist sect from all over Japan (and I think I spotted a few foreign monks as well) gather to celebrate at the sect’s main temple, the Ikegami Honmonji temple. The festival is famous for the matoi dancers which are usually reserved for firefighters, and the huge mando, the festive and lit up miniature temples carried or pulled in the parade that winds its way through town until it reaches the main temple building. The first night is dedicated mostly to local teams and youth teams and they don’t actually enter the temple grounds. I followed the parade around and took these photos of the probably very fit matoi dancers. The temple itself is nearly deserted compared to what it will look like the next evening. The last night of the ceremony was yesterday, but if you are in Tokyo during early November there is another Oeshiki in Zoshigaya near Ikebukuro that is not as crowded but just as intense. Enjoy!
Last night was the first of the three day long Oeshiki ceremony at Tokyo’s Ikegami Honmonji temple. The history behind this unique and rare buddhist festival is complicated but I did my best to explain it a little in this post from last year. The first night is merely a warm up, lots of people still turn up and the yatai (street vendors) are out in force! Most teams are busy preparing for the coming two days of dancing, chanting and manhandling the huge matoi poles through the streets of Ikegami. I caught one group practicing right next to the pagoda at the temple, but a few youth groups were out to give the coming generation a chance to get some live practice! Some of these matoi poles can be very heavy, I have heard of some that were as heavy as 80kg but no one can handle something like that for more than a few seconds I think. One of the teams had a great trio of wooden toy dogs all lit up and decorated following them around. Very popular with the crowd! The main ceremony takes place tonight and tomorrow night so there’s is still a chance to get down to Ota Ward and enjoy! This festival is actually very dark, the photos make it look all bright and clear but in reality it is much darker than the it looks like based on these photos. You have to go there and see for yourself!